Kenney to consider local exemptions to TFW program after provincial complaints

Employment Minister Jason Kenney said Friday he’s willing to consider “local exemptions” to his recent overhaul of the temporary foreign worker program.

CHARLOTTETOWN — Employment Minister Jason Kenney said Friday he’s willing to consider “local exemptions” to his recent overhaul of the temporary foreign worker program.

Kenney said he’ll consider changes in specific areas with very low levels of unemployment in regions with a higher level.

But Kenney made it clear he won’t compromise on the core goal of his controversial overhaul to the program: making sure employers don’t use it as a cheap source of labour when they could be hiring unemployed Canadians.

“I did reiterate that these important changes are designed to ensure that Canadians always come first in our job market and that the temporary foreign worker program is only a last, limited and temporary resort,” Kenney said in Charlottetown after a meeting with provincial labour ministers.

Kenney said that after listening to the concerns of the provinces and territories, he is taking the grievances seriously.

“In some cases, where there are very low levels of unemployment found within regions of higher unemployment, we are prepared to consider special local exemptions from some of the changes that we recently announced.”

In June, Kenney announced changes to limit the number of foreign workers that large and medium-sized companies are permitted to hire. He also toughened penalties for companies that violate the new rules, and promised inspections to uncover abuses.

Allen Roach, P.E.I.’s innovation minister, says his fellow ministers expressed serious concerns about the changes directly to Kenney.

“We heard from many jurisdictions that they recognized that some improvements could be made and needed to be made in certain aspects of the program,” Roach said.

“However many expressed that they are extremely concerned about the direct impact these changes will have on their industries.”

The labour ministers’ meeting came one day after western Canadian premiers gathering in Iqaluit criticized Ottawa on the changes to the temporary workers program.

“Limiting the ability to hire foreign workers to address critical labour shortages will unduly punish responsible employers in Western Canada, particularly those in smaller and remote communities where Canadian workers are not readily available,” they said in a communique.

While Kenney attempted to strike a conciliatory note toward the provinces, he took a hard line toward employers, whom he has criticized in the past as relying on relatively cheaper foreign workers as business model for success.

“We would encourage employers — I’m not talking about any region or industry in particular — we would encourage employers to redouble their efforts to hire and where necessary accommodate local unemployed workers,” Kenney said.

That could mean raising pay, allowing more flexible hours, investing in training or providing transport to work from hard-to-reach areas, he said.

“We think those options are all preferable than picking up the phone and calling a labour recruiter on the other side of the world and having someone fly you in from a developing country, into a region of double-digit unemployment.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

File photo
Gov’t of Alberta identifies estimated 300 new COVID-19 cases Sunday

Online COVID-19 dashboard unavailable as upgrades being completed

The Central Alberta Freestyle Ski Club is hoping to win $50,000 through the Mackenzie Investments Top Peak contest. (Contributed photo)
Central Alberta ski club trying to win $50K in online contest

A central Alberta ski club has entered a contest where it can… Continue reading

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Red Deer dips below 300 active COVID-19 cases

The number of active COVID-19 cases in Red Deer continued to drop… Continue reading

Ben King scores for the Red Deer Rebels during the third period of a Western Hockey League game against the Calgary Hitmen at the Westerner Park Centrium Saturday. (Photo by Rob Wallator/Red Deer Rebels)
Rebels complete comeback to pick up first win of season

Rebels 3 Hitmen 2 (OT) The Red Deer Rebels were able to… Continue reading

Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan takes part in a year-end interview with The Canadian Press at National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa on December 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Conservatives to call top Sajjan, Trudeau aides to testify on Vance allegations

OTTAWA — The federal Conservatives plan to summon two senior Liberal aides… Continue reading

Elvira D'Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
‘It’s been a good week’: Tam hopeful on vaccines as pandemic anniversary nears

Several provinces were preparing to loosen COVID-19 restrictions on Sunday, as Canada’s… Continue reading

Mount Pearl Senior High in Mount Pearl, N.L., remains closed on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. The provincial health authority says there were 185 cases at 22 schools, including 145 infections among staff and students of one high school in Mount Pearl that was an early epicentre of the outbreak. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Daly
In Newfoundland and Labrador, three ingredients made for explosive COVID-19 outbreak

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — With her classes, three part-time jobs and a… Continue reading

A passenger places a tag on luggage at the departure terminal at Toronto Pearson Airport, in Mississauga, Ont., Friday, May 24, 2019. The economic and life disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted many recent immigrants to leave Canada and return to their countries of origin, where they have more social and familial connections. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
COVID-19 pandemic prompts recent newcomers to leave Canada for their home countries

OTTAWA — The economic and life disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic… Continue reading

Rail cars wait for pickup in Winnipeg, Sunday, March 23, 2014. The fierce debate over cross-border pipelines is putting more Canadian oil and gas on trains destined for the United States — a country experts fear is ill-equipped for the potential consequences. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods
As debate rages over cross-border pipelines, U.S. analysts brace for more oil by rail

WASHINGTON — The fierce debate over cross-border pipelines is putting more Canadian… Continue reading

Pictures and notes in from friends and classmates make up a memorial in support and memory of Aubrey Berry, 4, and her sister Chloe, 6, during a vigil held at Willows Beach in Oak Bay, B.C., on December 30, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Mother of slain daughters supports recent changes to Canada’s Divorce Act

VICTORIA — Legal experts and a mother whose ex-partner was convicted of… Continue reading

Radio and television personality Dick Smyth is shown in an undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO
Dick Smyth, Canadian maestro of news radio commentary, dies at 86

TORONTO — Radio and television personality Dick Smyth, whose booming commentary filled… Continue reading

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, January 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Funeral for Walter Gretzky to be held Saturday in home town of Brantford, Ont.

The funeral for hockey legend Wayne Gretzky’s father Walter will take place… Continue reading

Most Read